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Family Staples – Piratatak. Mediocre, 100% luck based, but with a nice theme, great to play with younger kids

Another entry in our “Family Friendly” games, today’s review is Piratatak. This one was certainly a present from the grandparents, as I certainly wouldn’t have bought it myself. It turns out it’s one of those “terrible game but the kids love it”, and as such I don’t mind playing it once in a while. Games are short and exciting (for the kids) but the game is 100% luck based and has basically no strategy beyond “keep drawing until a pirate shows up”.

Piratatak – Gameplay

Piratatak is a game for 2 to 4 players. The goal of the game is to build your ship, by revealing cards from a common draw pile. Cards include ship parts (that you acquire and that become instantly part of your ship if the color matches yours), coins (that can be used to buy parts of your ship owned by other players), or pirates (that force you to discard 3 cards, whether ship parts – ideally not the ones you use for your own ship – or coins).

A typical turn for a player consists in drawing cards from the pile (and acquire all of them) until you reveal a pirate, at which point you have to throw away 3 of the cards you own. Your turn is basically “positive” if you got to draw at least 4 “good cards” before drawing a pirate. It’s “negative” otherwise.

Instead of drawing, you can choose to give 3 coins to another player, to “buy” a boat part from them. Since each player has their own boat color (determined by the first boat part they initially drew), there is no bad feeling involved with selling a part, and the rules forbid you to refuse anyway (you can’t “block” another player from winning).

The winner is the first player to build their boat entirely (6 cards of the same boat color).

Piratatak – Review

A typical game can go very fast, 10 to 15 minutes, and there is some fun tension when you’re drawing, as you could reveal a pirate. Arrr!

One could claim that there is some amount of strategy in this game, but it’s extremely limited: basically when you draw a pirate it’s better to give away other players’ boats parts, so that these parts end up in the discard and cannot be purchased back by these players. This technically delays them until the discard gets reshuffled into the drawing pile. But it’s basically the only leverage you have in the game (and parents will want to teach it to younger kids to level the playing field), the rest is 100% luck of the draw, literally. You can also choose to “stop” drawing anytime you want, but there’s generally no benefit in doing that unless you know for sure that none of your boat’s parts are remaining in the drawing pile (which can happen late game).

With that being said, this is a great game for a family especially if you have younger kids. Our 5 year old isn’t too fond of board games, in particular because rules are still hard for her to grasp, and she senses she doesn’t have all the mental tools yet to beat her older siblings in more challenging games. This game being 100% luck based, everybody has a fair chance to win. And because the games are so quick, it’s fairly easy to play 3 or 4 times in a row to ensure everybody scores at least one victory.

Furthermore, the theme is well done, with nice illustrations. The pirates are cartoonish but scary, the boats inspire imagination, and the coins genuinely look like gold kids want to collect.

Piratatak Review – conclusion

Why parents can appreciate piratatak

  • Games are short
  • Levels the playing field for your younger kids, ensures a fair game even with different ages
  • Nice illustrations
  • Small deck of cards, easy to take on a trip

Why kids love piratatak

  • The pirates give a genuine tension to the drawing step
  • The feeling that anyone can win thanks to luck of the draw
  • Acquiring gold and building a ship, great theme!

Just like Candy Land, Piratatak is one of those games that are just dumb luck, but that we keep coming back to, because the kids love it. Skip this game unless you have very young kids.

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